A report by the Foreign Affairs Committee of British parliament on Wednesday came down heavily on former prime minister David Cameron’s government for intervening in Libya in 2011, and alleged the action was founded on erroneous assumptions.
The report severely criticises Britain and France for the intervention that led to the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and accused Cameron of lacking a coherent strategy for the air campaign.
It said the intervention had not been "informed by accurate intelligence", and that it led to the rise of the so-called Islamic State in North Africa.
However, the Foreign Office said the action had been called for by the Arab League and authorised by the UN Security Council.
Crispin Blunt, the chair of the committee, said: “This report determines that UK policy in Libya before and since the intervention of March 2011 was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the country and the situation.”
He added, “Other political options were available. Political engagement might have delivered civilian protection, regime change and reform at a lesser cost to the UK and Libya. The UK would have lost nothing by trying these instead of focusing exclusively on regime change by military means.”
The committee said that Britain, having led the intervention with France, had a responsibility to support Libyan economic and political reconstruction.
“But our lack of understanding of the institutional capacity of the country stymied Libya’s progress in establishing security on the ground and absorbing financial and other resources from the international community,” Blunt said.
In January, Cameron had defended his handling of the situation, telling MPs that action was needed because Gaddafi "was bearing down on people in Benghazi and threatening to shoot his own people like rats".
But the parliamentary panel said the government "failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated", adding it "selectively took elements of Gaddafi's rhetoric at face value".
The report will add to the woes of 49-year-old Cameron, who stood down as an MP this week. He resigned as prime minister in June after Britain voted in a referendum to exit the European Union.